The reason that World War 2 naval wars is such an exciting part of military history is that there were so many pivotal battles where American military genius turned the tide against a powerful and fearful enemy. Between Germany and Japan, we faced enemies who were ruthless, powerful and crafty and it took all of the military genius we had to muster to defeat them. One such brilliant WWII naval battle that turned the war in our favor was the Battle of Midway.
What the Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto had in mind for the American naval fleet was nothing short of a WWII equivalent of Custer’s last stand. But he was not up against Custer this time. He was up against Admiral Chester Nimitz who saw the trap being laid and devised a brilliant counter offensive that not only saved our fleet from a devastating loss that could have cost us the war, Nimitz delivered a brutal blow to Japan’s powerful naval fleet as well.
Yamamoto’s plan was a devious one. By drawing the US Fleet into a battle on Midway Island, the surprise attack would give the Japanese Admiral the setting he wanted to overwhelm the American navy and deal it a deadly blow. Then by setting up a Japanese advance force on Midway, that would give the axis powers a vantage point to attack Hawaii and eventually the U.S. homeland.
As is so often the case, the reason for the surprise American victory at Midway is the results of combined contributions of military intelligence and the cooperation of air and sea power to defeat the Japanese plot completely. We cannot go too far in praising the ability of American secret service to intercept and decode top-secret Japanese military secrets to the “surprise” attack was not a surprise at all. That intelligence gave our Admiral Nimitz the advantage he needed to plan a brilliant counter offensive that instead caught the Japanese by surprise and dealt their navy a terrible blow and turned the war in our favor.
The date of the strike was June 4th, 1942 and it was on this date that Nimitz executed his brilliant strategy by deploying an air strike from the aircraft carriers USS Yorktown, the USS Hornet and the USS Enterprise to strike the Japanese fleet by surprise resulting in the sinking of four Japanese aircraft carriers along with destroying their aircraft and military personnel. Admiral Yamamoto found himself facing a stunning defeat forcing retreat from Midway instead of the stunning victory that he had expected.
It is this kind of phenomenal military strategy that made the difference across all of the theaters not only of World War II naval war but also in the strategically brilliant ground war our military waged across many theaters of operation and many fronts. This is why along with D-Day and several other pivotal battles, we mark the Battle of Midway as one of the decisive blows we dealt to our enemy which lead to a victory in World War II for the allied powers.